Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, October 2

“Are There ‘Others’ in the Book of Mormon?: A Critique and Partial Rebuttal of the article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land[…] Did They Find Others There?” by John L. Sorenson and other similar “‘Others’ Were in the Book of Mormon Lands” articles by Brant Gardner; Matthew Roper; Michael Ash; etc.” Part 3: SHEREM

“Are There ‘Others’ in the Book of Mormon?: A Critique and Partial Rebuttal of the article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land[…] Did They Find Others There?” by John L. Sorenson and other similar “‘Others’ Were in the Book of Mormon Lands” articles by Brant Gardner; Matthew Roper; Michael Ash; etc.”
grego
(c) 2004-2009

Part 3: SHEREM

I’ll first put some pertinent scriptures here first, as this story of Sherem is often used as one of the strong arguments for “Others” in the land.
Jacob 7:1 And now it came to pass after some years had passed away, there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem.
Jacob 7:2 And it came to pass that he began to preach among the people, and to declare unto them that there should be no Christ. And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.
Jacob 7:3 And he labored diligently that he might lead away the hearts of the people, insomuch that he did lead away many hearts; and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me.
Jacob 7:4 And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil.
Jacob 7:5 And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.
Jacob 7:6 And it came to pass that he came unto me, and on this wise did he speak unto me, saying: Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard and also know that thou goest about much, preaching that which ye call the gospel, or the doctrine of Christ.
Jacob 7:7 And ye have led away much of this people that they pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence. And now behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy; for no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come. And after this manner did Sherem contend against me.
Jacob 7:8 But behold, the Lord God poured in his Spirit into my soul, insomuch that I did confound him in all his words.
Jacob 7:10 And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea.
Jacob 7:11 And I said unto him: Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ…
Jacob 7:13 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Show me a sign by this power of the Holy Ghost, in the which ye know so much.
Jacob 7:14 And I said unto him: What am I that I should tempt God to show unto thee a sign in the thing which thou knowest to be true?…
Also, the time reference given here is “[Between 544 and 421 B.C.]”. At the end of Enos, it is 420 B.C. (It is likely that this is much more towards the 544 end than the 421 end, as Jacob was born in the upper 590’s.)

John L. Sorenson:
The account of Sherem’s encounter with Jacob reiterates the question. “Some [ten more?] years had passed away,” and Jacob was now verging on “old” (cf. Jacob 7:1, 20-26). At that time “there came a man among the people of Nephi whose name was Sherem” (Jacob 7:1). Upon first meeting Jacob, he said, “Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard … that thou goest about much, preaching” (Jacob 7:6). Now, the population of adult males descended from the original group could not have exceeded fifty at that time. This would have been only enough to populate one modest-sized village. Thus Sherem’s is a strange statement. Jacob, as head priest and religious teacher, would routinely have been around the Nephite temple in the cultural center at least on all holy days (see Jacob 2:2). How then could Sherem never have seen him, and why would he have had to seek “much opportunity” to speak to him in such a tiny settlement? And where would Jacob have had to go on the preaching travels Sherem refers to, if only such a tiny group were involved. Moreover, from where was it that Sherem “came … among the people of Nephi” (Jacob 7:1)? The text and context of this incident would make little sense if the Nephite population had resulted only from natural demographic increase.

Brant Gardner:
With the clear enmity between lineal Nephites and Lamanites at this early period, it is unlikely that Sherem was a Lamanite born after the separation of the two colonies, yet that would be the only other possibility if we do not factor “others” into the equation.

****Actually, there are many other possibilities other than “others”.
Once more, it goes back to the question of initial population size, which I have treated. That there answers all that needs to be answered.
*It’s also possible, that with probably thousands of people in the Nephite population (as shown above) at this time, Sherem came from a village other than the one Jacob was in. Not hard to imagine. How many people do you know in the next village, especially if you didn’t have TV’s, newspapers, or telephones? How many people do you know on the next street over?
Let’s look at a few more, though:
*Or, Sherem, being a wise man, especially having seen evidence, knew that the Lamanites could only overcome the Nephites through the Nephites’ wickedness, and therefore had come over peacefully from the Lamanites to corrupt the Nephites, which would allow the Lamanites to overcome them, according to the blessings and the curses.
*Or, perhaps desiring to rise up and be the leader of the Nephites, without the Lamanites, he left the Lamanites to corrupt the Nephites, then wanted to politically overcome them later.
*Or, Sherem could have been from a group that split away from the Nephites earlier. Looking at the record, maybe even 50 years could have passed away since then. Somewhere in that time it would not have been improbable for a small group, especially if it were just a couple or family or two, to splinter away. There’s plenty of that happening in the Book of Mormon all the time. To those who say it would have been mentioned, remember the Amalekites–major players later on, yet not even their splintering off is mentioned.
*In Alma 47:35, we read: “And it came to pass that Amalickiah sought the favor of the queen, and took her unto him to wife; and thus by his fraud, and by the assistance of his cunning servants, he obtained the kingdom; yea, he was acknowledged king throughout all the land, among all the people of the Lamanites, who were composed of the Lamanites and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites, and all the dissenters of the Nephites, from the reign of Nephi down to the present time.”
*Sherem could have been a Lamanite. The Lamanites would still have spoken the same language. Clear enmity, yet the Nephites had a clear desire to preach to the Lamanites.
*Kevin Christensen proposed that Sherem was a Mulekite trader (keep in mind with regards to spelling and grammar that this was typed quickly on a discussion board):

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Brant Gardner, from posts:
However, the answer cannot be that he came from inside the Nephites because they were surprised that he spoke the language.

**** I’m sorry, I’m missing that part in my Book of Mormon about “they were surprised that he spoke the language”–which verse is that? Or, is that Brant Gardner’s personal interpretation of what Jacob REALLY meant?

-=-=-=
Brant Gardner, from post:
It is just as good a guess that he was a believer in the Mosaic scriptures because of contact with Lamanites – and more likely since both for language and ignorance of where to find Jacob he is painted as an outsider.

**** Can anyone find any evidence that Laman and Lemuel believed in and lived the Law of Moses? Did the Lamanites, then, really believe in it? Did they have any scriptures about it, or did Nephi have them? How then was Sherem “a believer in the Mosaic scriptures because of contact with Lamanites”?
And it’s clear that Sherem was not a believer in the Law of Moses:
Jacob 7:14 And I said unto him: What am I that I should tempt God to show unto thee a sign in the thing which THOU KNOWEST TO BE TRUE?…

He had “ignorance of where to find Jacob”? Where is that in the Book of Mormon text? Once more, an unsupported personal interpretation of sacred text…

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Brant Gardner, from post:
…the real question would be why Jacob would ever say that he had a “perfect knowledge of the language of the people” unless it were somehow unusual. I doubt anyone has every said of you, “why, you speak En[gli]sh so well.” The only time we point out such things is when they run contrary to expectations.

****If I were President Bush, I might take that as a compliment. But yes, many have said that, and in the USA, too–though to me that’s incidental.
“Unusual”– let’s see–do most people have a perfect knowledge of English? What was your SAT score? Near perfect? Now, can you argue with those words, are you fluent with them? How many words are in a language, and how many are commonly used? And can you use those idioms to express and uphold your point of view? Why did Jacob mention language in particular? What else does Jacob say about speech here? Let’s review the text:
Jacob 7:2 And HE (SHEREM) PREACHED MANY THINGS which were FLATTERING UNTO THE PEOPLE; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.
Jacob 7:3 And he labored diligently that HE MIGHT LEAD AWAY THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE, insomuch that HE DID LEAD AWAY MANY HEARTS; and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me.
Jacob 7:4 And he was LEARNED, that he had a PERFECT KNOWLEDGE of the LANGUAGE OF THE PEOPLE; wherefore, HE COULD USE MUCH FLATTERY, and MUCH POWER OF SPEECH, ACCORDING TO THE POWER OF THE DEVIL.
Jacob 7:5 And HE HAD HOPE TO SHAKE ME FROM THE FAITH, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.
Jacob 7:6 And it came to pass that HE CAME UNTO ME, and on this wise did he speak unto me, saying: BROTHER JACOB, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard and also know that thou goest about much, PREACHING THAT WHICH YE CALL the gospel, or the doctrine of Christ.
Jacob 7:7 And YE HAVE LED AWAY MUCH OF THIS PEOPLE that THEY PERVERT THE RIGHT WAY OF GOD, and keep not the law of Moses which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence. And now behold, I, Sherem, DECLARE UNTO YOU THAT THIS IS BLASPHEMY; for no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come. And after this manner did Sherem contend against me.

What do I see? Does all that mean that the outsider Sherem learned to speak good Nephitese? No. Jacob means that Sherem has the ability to use speech to flatter and persuade people; he breaks the rules of logic, but no one notices (no man can know of things to come, but somehow he can know Christ won’t come); he uses the scriptures to lead people away; he even tries to overthrow Jacob with his speaking ability, which Jacob points out is “according to the power of the devil”. The devil did not teach Sherem to learn a new language, but to speak the language of the PEOPLE (note: not the language of the Nephites…) to further the devil’s work, much like Zeezrom and Korihor. Note that Sherem goes straight for the jugular at the opening remark, just like Cicero does in his hailed oratorical attack on Cataline. Here is a quote from Cicero about this (and more): “I HAVE FREQUENTLY FORCED MY ANTAGONIST TO RELINQUISH THE FIELD. _Hortensius_, an eminent Speaker, once declined to answer me, though in defence of an intimate friend. _Cataline_, a most audacious traitor, being publicly accused by me in the Senate-house, was struck dumb with shame: and _Curio_, the father, when he attempted to reply to me in a weighty and important cause which concerned the honour of his family, sat suddenly down, and complained that I had _bewitched_ him out of his memory.” Does this sound like what Sherem tries to do in his meeting with Jacob? Jacob’s intent in writing “he had a perfect language of the people” is to show that Sherem was a great orator, not an outsider.
In fact, note that after this stinging sucker punch accusation, Jacob writes,
Jacob 7:8 BUT BEHOLD, the LORD GOD POURED IN HIS SPIRIT INTO MY SOUL, INSOMUCH THAT I DID CONFOUND HIM in all his words.
Jacob knew he was right, that the belief in Jesus Christ was true; yet he still seemed to need the Spirit’s help to not “relinquish the field” and “win the speech contest”.

-=-=-=
Brant Gardner, from post:
What of the idea that the language is sophistry? Of course it is. The text says so – but if it makes a point of declaring the sophistry, why declare also the specifics about the language? It is redundant. Certainly it could be all a reference to how well Sherem manipulates language, but there is still the surprise and the problem of Sherem at this late point in Jacob’s life showing up and gunning for him in a verbal shootout. If Sheremi is inside the community, he had to learn at someone’s feet, and Jacob had been appointed as one of the teachers. How did Sherem the student miss Jacob the teacher? Even assuming a two generation gap (which would make Sherem a little too young to be taken seriously) we have the problem of assuming some form of educational institution that would be able to teach a bright student a sophisticated knowledge of the scriptures – and Jacob not be inolved or know of it – and have the student be unaware of the man who for years was the prime interpreter of scripture for the community.

****(I’ll skip all the language comments here, as its’ clear Brant Gardner finally admits the text is talking about sophistry, and I’ve already shown that. But after admitting that, he goes on to say “but Jacob says it twice, so it’s redundant, so it has to have a special meaning that’s not obvious from the text…” Give it up, man!! ;) )

Jacob was appointed as one of the teachers, correct. What, a school teacher?? No! A teacher of the word of God. (In the twenty or so times the word “teacher” is used in the Book of Mormon, it’s used to mean that.) Sure, if one were to assume only a few children at this point, it’s possible one might mistakenly assume that Jacob and Joseph were the only two school teachers…

Where does it say in the Book of Mormon that “Sherem the student miss[ed] Jacob the teacher”?

Since Brant Gardner seems to be unaware of Mesoamerican schooling, we have a sudden lack of Book of Mormon “insight” for this section. Unless it is not possible to imagine some form of education other than receiving it straight from Jacob, there is no problem here.

Let’s assume that at least Jacob and Joseph and Zoram taught their children and others in the group the scriptures, and that those others taught others; there’s a gap right there easy enough for anyone to see.

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Brant Gardner, from post:
“When the whole situation and all of the evidence are added, the interpretation of the language is simply another indication to the reader that they should understand Sherem as a foreigner. To anyone of the time it would have been obvious from the clues given and hence not required to be stated openly.”

****This type of statement, in my opinion, would make one superior to Fawn Brodie in the ability to always just KNOW what those poor Book of Mormon writers and Joseph Smith were thinking and really wanted to say, but either couldn’t or didn’t.

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Brant Gardner:
One of the texts on the Book of Mormon that clearly depends upon friendly relations with peoples who are not specifically Nephites is the appearance of Sherem noted in the Book of Jacob. Jacob notes Sherem’s self-introduction: Jacob 7:6 “And it came to pass that he came unto me, and on this wise did he speak unto me, saying: Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard and also know that thou goest about much, preaching that which ye call the gospel, or the doctrine of Christ.”

Both from Sherem’s words and the way Jacob describes the encounter, we have the very clear impression that Sherem and Jacob had never met before. Given the probable size of the Nephite community at this point in time, it would have been impossible for Sherem to have been a member of the community and not have met Jacob prior to his adulthood. Sherem, of necessity, comes from outside the Nephite community.

****The “very clear impression” of Sherem and Jacob never having met is solely a matter of personal interpretation.

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Michael R. Ash:
Since Jacob was one of the original Lehites in the New World, the maximum adult population among the Lehites couldn’t have been more than a dozen people. Yet Sherem had come from another settlement and had never met Jacob, the chief Nephite priest.

****”And now it came to pass after some years had passed away, there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem.” I think that I’ll start with a little thinking, then do what Brant Gardner always espouses doing, but which he seems to have forgotten to do here: a word study. (Mine will be for the Book of Mormon only here, though I’m sure outside sources will just strengthen my argument.)
Think about this: were Sherem a stranger who literally/ physically came among them from the outside/ another place, how did he suddenly become able to have “a perfect knowledge of the language of the people” (Jacob 7:4)? (Wait, I’m having a flashback of Pocahontas and John Smith at the Grandma Tree… Ok, maybe I’m wrong… ;) )
Then, why would Jacob have asked him if he believed the scriptures (I’m assuming one would have to read before one could believe), and how could Sherem have told Jacob that he did (I assume that meant he had read the scriptures and understood them)? (Jacob 7:10: “And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea.”) If Sherem were from the outside, where did Sherem get the scriptures, and then how did he read them? Or did he come from the outside for a while, learn the language, read the scriptures, and think of a new religion to preach? And why would Jacob believe his answer about having read them?
Perhaps Jacob wrote this part to stress that he wasn’t a stranger to the Nephites.

This “came…among” in Jacob 7:1 could mean that he “rose up”. In Helaman 7:25, Nephi says: “Yea, wo be unto you because of that great abomination which has COME AMONG you; and ye have united yourselves unto it, yea, to that secret band which was established by Gadianton!” Well, it wasn’t a strange group of outsiders that “brought” the secret band of Gadianton to the Nephites, even though I believe that is what Brant Gardner believes. So, I’ll add some scriptures here that expound a little more on this, to strengthen the interpretation of “came among”:
Helaman 1:9 Now when THOSE PEOPLE who were DESIROUS THAT [PAANCHI] SHOULD BE THEIR GOVERNOR saw that he was condemned unto death, therefore THEY WERE ANGRY, and behold, THEY SENT FORTH one KISHKUMEN, even to the judgment-seat of Pahoran, and murdered Pahoran as he sat upon the judgment-seat.
Helaman 1:11 And HE WENT UNTO THOSE THAT SENT HIM, and THEY all entered into a covenant, yea, swearing by their everlasting Maker, that they would tell no man that Kishkumen had murdered Pahoran.
Helaman 2:3 But behold, Kishkumen, who had murdered Pahoran, did lay wait to destroy Helaman also; and he was UPHELD BY HIS BAND, who had entered into a covenant that no one should know his wickedness.
Helaman 2:4 For there was one GADIANTON, who was exceedingly expert in many words, and also in his craft, to carry on the secret work of murder and of robbery; therefore HE BECAME THE LEADER OF THE BAND OF KISHKUMEN.
Helaman 2:5 Therefore he did flatter them, and also Kishkumen, that if they would place him in the judgment-seat he would grant unto those who belonged to his band that they should be placed in power and authority among the people; therefore Kishkumen sought to destroy Helaman.
It’s clear that the band is comprised of people who had wanted Paanchi to be chief judge: Nephites.

This use is also supported by 2 Nephi 10:3, where Jacob writes: “Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ–for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name–should COME AMONG the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him–for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.” Once again, Jesus didn’t “come among” the Jews from the outside, unless you want to stretch it and count coming back from Egypt; but he had originally been from them. Or, unless you want to count coming down from heaven; but in that case, everyone would be in the same sense.
Also, in Helaman 6:2, it says: “For behold, there were many of the Nephites who had become hardened and impenitent and grossly wicked, insomuch that they did reject the word of God and all the preaching and prophesying which did COME AMONG them.” Unless all the Nephite prophets were from “others” or even outside groups, I don’t believe the literal interpretation of “come among” holds here, either.
Samuel the Lamanite, in Helaman 13:26, “…if a prophet COME AMONG you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and CAST HIM OUT and seek all manner of ways to destroy him…” Some might say that Samuel was talking about himself only; that might, but also might not, be. I imagine if it were, he might have just said so. Let’s see the continuation of this in Helaman 13:27: “…if a man shall COME AMONG YOU and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth–and if a man shall COME AMONG you and say this, ye will RECEIVE HIM…” Though Samuel came among them from the lands of the Lamanites, I doubt he meant “come among”, “cast him out”, and “receive him” in literal, straightforward, one-way interpretations only–what, could no prophets and false prophets exist among the Nephites, but only come from outside the Nephites? Hardly so.
Also, in Mosiah 11:20, we read: “And it came to pass that there was a man AMONG them whose name was Abinadi; and he WENT FORTH AMONG them, and began to prophesy, saying: Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, GO FORTH, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord–Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger”;
and then, in Mosiah 12:1: “And it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi CAME AMONG them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them, saying: Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying–Abinadi, GO and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations.” Well, there was only one people for Abinadi at this time, and he was there among them already. If Abinadi were already there among them, how could he “[come] again and “go”? On the other hand, there are some uses of “come among” that are straightforward in the Book of Mormon, such as in Alma 7:8 and Alma 20:13.
In Alma 47:35, we read: “And it came to pass that Amalickiah sought the favor of the queen, and took her unto him to wife; and thus by his fraud, and by the assistance of his cunning servants, he obtained the kingdom; yea, he was acknowledged king throughout all the land, among all the people of the Lamanites, who were composed of the Lamanites and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites, and all the dissenters of the Nephites, from the reign of Nephi down to the present time.”
“All the dissenters of the Nephites, from the reign of Nephi down to the present time”–this phrase helps clear up a few things. First, it seems that the dissenters always fled to the Lamanites. Why not another group, nation, or “others”? Second, “from the reign of Nephi”–clearly, that’s long before Jacob (Sherem), and much earlier than the first mention of the Amalekites, the first large group of dissenters that we read about. (Note that to call EVERYONE who wasn’t a Nephite a Lamanite, makes no sense when the Book of Mormon talks about Nephites and Lamanites.)

It would do well to keep in mind that Sherem is a liar (see Jacob 7:14, 19). Would it be stable to construct an argument based on his words, or might one therefore proceed with caution, out of necessity? Was it possible that Sherem was practicing his preaching and debate skills, polishing his rhetoric, building his base of followers, and perfecting his doctrine before daring to argue with Jacob? There was, naturally, much riding on the line here. Of course Sherem could say that he had tried to speak with him, but just hadn’t been able to; is this just the familiar “I tried to call you, but I couldn’t reach you” argument?

If this is not the correct interpretation, perhaps it is this: Jacob himself writes that “…[Sherem] labored diligently that he might lead away the hearts of the people, insomuch that he did lead away many hearts; and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, HE SOUGHT MUCH OPPORTUNITY that HE MIGHT COME UNTO ME” (Jacob 7:3). This sounds much more like Jacob was trying to avoid a head-to-head confrontation, not that there were so many people they never ran into each other.
Also, I imagine Sherem wanted to do debate with a large audience watching, not just see Jacob and debate him–it’s like trying to set up a debate, or a boxing match–it’s not just hey, two people see each other, go at it.
Also, none of this states or even implies that Jacob hadn’t known Sherem before this time, or that Sherem had been around preaching for years, contrary to what is inferred in the article: “How then could Sherem never have seen him, and why would he have had to seek “much opportunity” to speak to him in such a tiny settlement?” He might have known him and seen him often before Sherem started his preaching.

“…[T]hat thou goest about much, preaching”: being a priest and a teacher over the people of Nephi, especially if with only his brother Joseph to help, he would have had the responsibility of “home teaching”, etc.; in addition, he had to work for a living– probably farming and tending flocks–somewhat time-consuming. Understanding this context, the statement then makes more sense. However, with Jacob being old, I wonder how much running around he was doing… Perhaps Sherem is just flattering and buttering Jacob up?

“Thou goest about much” need not mean that Jacob traveled days on end to preach. So, if there were only a few adults, maximum, where was Jacob going? To visit and preach to others all the time? My wife goes about much every day–market, shopping, taking children all over, etc.; yet, it’s most all within a square mile of area. The missionaries “go about much”, yet sometimes it’s in just a few places in a small town. So, it’s an assumption that it must mean “many miles” and “many cities” of travel.
Anyway, it’s here that I’ll comment on the two-pronged approach to population. John L. Sorenson, Brant Gardner, et. al. try to show that either the population was exceedingly small, so there had to be others to fit the text (like in the above example); or the population was large, so there had to be others to fit the text. Neither is necessary!

Also, we read in Jacob 7:16, 17 that “And it came to pass that [Sherem] said unto the people: Gather together on the morrow, for I shall die; wherefore, I desire to speak unto THE PEOPLE before I shall die. And it came to pass that on the morrow the MULTITUDE WERE GATHERED together…”
It seems obvious that he had preached his doctrine to the people. How big was the population? Seemingly large enough the two might not have met in the chocolate shop, yet possibly small enough for the people to be spoken to and to be gathered “on the morrow”.
“And where would Jacob have had to go on the preaching travels Sherem refers to, if only such a tiny group were involved.” That’s correct–it’s not a tiny group, at this point the population is likely in the thousands. Nevertheless, when you get farms/ fields, and no high-rise apartment bujldings, it’s a bigger area. Heck, even the suburb I grew up in only had about a hundred homes, and I just stayed in a small area of that most of the time.
Also, if “on the morrow” means the next day, the people could be gathered without prior notice or preparation for the next day. I assume that unlike King Benjamin, there wasn’t a special holiday/s where the people were probably already preparing to go to the temple, or unlike Jesus, when it was…well, Jesus. (3 Nephi 19:2-4: here “on the morrow” is used to signify “tomorrow/ the next day”.) There is the factor, though, that this came after many days, and it’s possible many of Sherem’s followers might have been waiting nearby, who had been gathered to listen to his debate Jacob and were still hanging around to see what would happen to him.

Sherem was likely simply a great Nephite persuader who preached the Law of Moses.

Jacob writes: “…the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a LONESOME and a solemn people… (Jacob 7:26). “Lonesome” doesn’t sound like they were mingling and mixing with lots of other peoples, especially those who believed in the same religion. It’s possible to be lonesome surrounded by others, but it’s much harder to be lonesome surrounded by others of the same religion and country.

2009, September 18

“Are There ‘Others’ in the Book of Mormon?: A Critique and Partial Rebuttal of the article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land… Did They Find Others There?” by John L. Sorenson and other similar “‘Others’ Were in the Book of Mormon Lands” articles by Brant Gardner; Matthew Roper; Michael Ash; etc.” Part 1 by grego

“Are There ‘Others’ in the Book of Mormon?: A Critique and Partial Rebuttal of the article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land… Did They Find Others There?” by John L. Sorenson and other similar “‘Others’ Were in the Book of Mormon Lands” articles by Brant Gardner; Matthew Roper; Michael Ash; etc.” Part 1

grego
(c) 2004-2009

Part 1

Over the past few years, a line of thinking and persuasions for it have become prevalent in LDS writings–that there were “others” in the Book of Mormon lands, and even though the Book of Mormon might not come out directly and clearly say so, there are lots of places that prove it, backed up with other areas that provide evidence.

This article is a response to the article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?” by John L. Sorenson, of FARMS, in which the claim is made that the Book of Mormon is full of proof that there were others there before, during, and immediately after the Lehites, and that there was plentiful interaction between them and the Lehites. I aim to show that the Book of Mormon evidence does not prove outside groups, and that most all of the instances that are used that try to show that it does, are actually based on wrested interpretation and speculation–kind of like Cinderella’s sisters trying to scrunch their large feet into that small shoe.

Since others since have picked up many lines of his reasoning (Brant Gardner, Matthew Roper, Michael R. Ash, James E. Smith, Richard D. Grant), and even repeat the same in many articles, I also respond to some of these, especially where they follow the same line of reasoning, but add on to or differ somewhat from John L. Sorenson’s.

Here is a list of the articles:
When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? John L. Sorenson
(FARMS) When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? – FARMS JBMS

“Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes.” John C. Kunich, Pp. 231-67. Nephi’s Descendants? Historical Demography and the Book of Mormon Reviewed by James E. Smith

“A Social History of the Early Nephites” by Brant Gardner (maybe one or two others by him, too)

“Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations”
Review of Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations
Reviewed By: Matthew Roper
Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2003. Pp. 91—128

“Were the Lehites Alone in the Americas?”
Written by Michael R. Ash for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), Copyright ©2004. http://www.fairlds.org

Proving whether there were others there or not, whether in the Book of Mormon or otherwise, is not my purpose, though I sometimes note other thoughts regarding this issue (from the Book of Mormon)–in either direction (there were or there weren’t).

My purpose is to provoke much greater and intense thought and assessment about the subject. If there are evidences and proofs of “others” in the Book of Mormon, let there be; if there are not, let’s not try to untextually and illogically force them!!

Author’s Note:
About my writing: writing articles on the Book of Mormon, etc. is a hobby of mine, not my profession (unlike many of the authors’ articles to which I am responding). I have not responded to every argument in every article–not enough time, not enough thought put into it, not enough expertise, not enough…
Also, I am not paid to write in any certain style. Therefore, a few explanations might be helpful. A line of alternating dash/double dash (-=-=-=) separate each section of the original article(s) and my response; three dashes (—) and with ****, denote my response to the original article. I changed the way I quote the authors, so they should all be given by name, but there might be an attribution mistake or two. Sometimes CAPS are used to show stress, clarity, or to single out an important part of a larger section. But aren’t CAPS yelling, and very rude? Only if you want it to be. So why not italics, or bold, instead? Italics are an absolute pain to work with in some computer writing programs, and it costs too much to print bold type. Besides, my email contains caps, but not italics or bold. I started using caps here a long time ago for this, and have continued. Unless noted, all CAPS are mine.
There might be mistakes–all sorts of mistakes, of different types. The length of the articles, the redundancy sometimes within them, the redundancy between them, the way I have tried to break them up, my redundancy in answering, interrupted work over periods of time, etc., didn’t help. If you see something, please let me know. This ain’t set in stone. ;)

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When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? John L. Sorenson
(FARMS)
When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? – FARMS JBMS
Abstract: A number of statements in the Book of Mormon text are examined, which indicate the presence in Lehi’s “promised land” of peoples other than those descended from Lehi’s party. Reasons are considered why the topic is not addressed more explicitly in the record. It is concluded that there is clear evidence for the presence of “others.” Several puzzles about the history of the Nephites and Lamanites are linked to the question of whether they found others already living in their promised land. It seems important enough to call for serious examination of the text of the Book of Mormon for all possible evidence. Let us first look at what the Nephite writers say about their own group. Then we will see what we can learn about other groups described or mentioned in the record. In each case we will not only look for direct data on population size, ethnicity, language, and culture but also will draw plausible inferences about those matters.

Arguments from LEHI to NEPHI

John L. Sorenson:
Population Growth among the Nephites
Two questions about Nephite population size are of major concern. First, how fast did the Nephite group grow as a result of the natural fertility and mortality of the original party? We need to examine whether the numbers attributed to them at various points in their history can be accounted for in terms of natural increase by the Nephite portion of Lehi’s group. If the numbers cannot be explained by that means, then recourse to “others” is required to account for the apparent excess.
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****Whoa, pardner! Already from the start we have a big problem… Let’s slow down a second, such a fast start. John L. Sorenson assumes a huge thing that I can’t: the number and membership of the original party. Who was in the original party? We don’t really know, do we? Is it possible that some might not be mentioned, such as possibly Lehi’s servants? I imagine that he had many–he was a man with a large family, and great wealth–enough that Laban, who had many servants and a high position, became so envious that he would kill for it. Though not necessary, it wouldn’t not make sense that the servants went with him on the journey–otherwise, the reason Zoram went wouldn’t make good sense. (I imagine Lehi could have sent his servants away, or had a wicked family member take over his matters and kept the servants working–saying he and his family were going somewhere to do something, and would be back after a lengthy period oftime, etc.) The record doesn’t say so, but it would seem such an understood and small matter–unlike joining other groups of people, which would warrant much more mention in the Book of Mormon. For example, Lehi’s daughters are mentioned only one time. Did they go? How many were there? Who did they marry? We don’t know how many daughters he had, nor how many sons of Ishmael, nor his daughters, nor how many servants Ishmael might have had that went with them also, nor how many children the married ones might have already had. It is probably safe to assume that nobody among the two households was left behind in Jerusalem, as Mormon says in 3 Nephi 5:20 that “. . .he [God] brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, (and no one knew it save it were HIMSELF AND THOSE WHOM HE BROUGHT OUT OF THAT LAND)” (3 Nephi 5:20).

Matthew Roper:
After telling us that “Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the admonitions of the Lord” (2 Nephi 4:13) and were planning to kill him (2 Nephi 5:3), Nephi then relates:
And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me. Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words. (2 Nephi 5:5-6)
At the time the Nephites and the Lamanites separated, then, Nephi was accompanied by his own family, Zoram and Sam and their respective families, his younger brothers Jacob and Joseph, and his sisters, in addition to “all those who would go with me.” Who were these others who “believed in the warnings and the revelations of God”? The most likely answer seems to be other people living in the land, not of Lehi’s family.

Brant Gardner:
The best hypothesis, then, to explain Nephi’s mention of “all those who would go” is that he referred to those of the hamlet or hamlets who had joined with the Lehites and who, in recognition of the greater social and technological sophistication of the newcomers, had permitted them to occupy roles of leadership over their hamlet in exchange for the new knowledge or goods they brought with them (in addition to the gathering power of religious conversion; see 2 Nephi 5:6).
Lehi’s company had every reason to accept aid from, and a merger with, local populations. Lehi’s group planted seeds from the Old World, but a rapid acquisition of information about survival skills particular to the New World would have been extremely important. They would have needed to know about the local food sources that were successful, the local sources of materials for clothing, the locations and types of clay for pottery, and any number of location-specific cultural items.

Brant Gardner:
“Does the text lend any credence to the idea that “others” had come into the Lehite colony this early? Nothing points definitively to that conclusion, but on at least one occasion (in 2 Nephi 5:6) the most plausible explanation rests squarely on the presence of “others.” Nephi describes the flight of his family and of those who would follow him from the machinations of Laman and Lemuel:
And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me. Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words. And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. (2 Nephi 5:5-7)
The identity of “all those who would go” with Nephi rests on those who are specifically named and the probable division of Lehi’s clan. Not specified among Nephi’s followers are the children of Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael, thereby leading us to assume that they remained behind. A comparison of Lehi’s final counsel to the sons and daughters of Laman and Lemuel (see 2 Nephi 4:3-9) with his words to the seed of Sam (see v. 11) makes the loyalties of the children of Laman and Lemuel to their fathers appear obvious. Previous alliances of the sons of Ishmael to Laman and Lemuel (see 1 Nephi 16:37; 2 Nephi 1:28), as well as their behavior immediately following Lehi’s death (see 2 Nephi 4:13), suggest that they were not inclined to follow Nephi. It is rather unlikely that any of the wives chose to split into a clan separate from their husbands, and indeed the Book of Mormon indicates the early preferences of the wives of Laman and Lemuel (see 1 Nephi 7:6; 18:9) and Nephi (see v. 19), although their individual alliances at this time of division are not specifically mentioned. When we account for the named or mentioned persons and those likely to remain behind, very little room remains for “others” from the original Lehites. In fact, using individuals mentioned in the text and their logical progeny, we can account for everyone. Regardless of how the group split up, however, if “all those who would go” were only one or two people we would expect that Nephi might make mention of them, at least by their head of household, as he does for the families of Zoram, Sam, Jacob, and Joseph.

****Well, this surely isn’t the necessary case. We cannot expect Nephi, Mormon, or any of the other writers to act like this. We don’t see where they act as we would expect them to act, or write as we would expect them to write. To say this, is hoping for nothing substantial. And, not everyone is mentioned. For example, what is said about Sariah, or Ishmael’s wife? There is no mention of them by name as to their death or their choosing to go or remain. If they were so important, and Sariah had even been mentioned many times previously, why is she not mentioned by name at this point? So, we conclude it isn’t the case. Once more, without actually knowing the original party members (and ones that might have been added over the course of travels!), it’s impossible to draw these types of conclusions.
And what, then, did the Nephites give the hamlets, in exchange for all that the hamlets gave them, such as corn, costly apparel, the location of pottery clay and metals, local food sources, etc.? Or, were these free to the Nephites? Or, did they unfairly steal this knowledge, or such? Did they buy the leadership with religion? Unlikely, right? But why would the hamlets tell them where the money was? Isn’t that like the banker teaching someone how to rob a bank? And besides, if the other people that were already there had all that precious ore that was so plentiful, what good would it do the Nephites to go after it, too, unless it profited them?

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Brant Gardner:
Indeed, Nephi’s descriptions of “his people” begin very early to have the appearance of referring to more than the named individuals, if only in the characterizations of the activities mentioned, activities that, from John L. Sorenson’s internal perspective, would indicate a larger population.

Michael R. Ash:
Who were these others who, in addition to those already mentioned, followed Nephi? It is at this point that we get the terms “people of Nephi” and “the people who were now called Lamanites” (2 Nephi 5:9, 14). It’s possible that at this point such terms took on a cultural perspective and referred to all peoples who aligned themselves with Nephi or his contentious brother.

Matthew Roper:
Significantly, at this point in the text Nephi introduces the term people of Nephi for the first time in reference to his followers (2 Nephi 5:9), a term that may be suggestive of a larger society including more than his immediate family.

****Quote: “Indeed, Nephi’s descriptions of ‘his people’ begin very early to have the appearance of referring to more than the named individuals.”
And how does one infer that? What of his description lends to that interpretation? I am unaware of any.
What is being proposed here, is that a very small group of foreigners completely overtook the political and cultural systems from a huge group of related people, all in the space of just a very few years. Possible? Yes–but highly unlikely, in my opinion. Can anyone provide examples from history where this has happened, and especially had similar outcomes?

In 2 Nephi 5:6, it says: “Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, AND ALL THOSE WHO WOULD GO WITH ME. And ALL THOSE WHO WOULD GO WITH ME WERE THOSE WHO BELIEVED IN THE WARNINGS AND THE REVELATIONS OF GOD; wherefore, they did HEARKEN UNTO MY WORDS.” This seems to be people who were not of Nephi’s immediate family group. Did Ishmael have any other daughters? Did any of Laman et. al.’s grandchildren follow? If Nephi’s sisters were all married to Ishmael’s sons, which ones left, and how many? What about the children? Servants may have later intermarried with both Nephites and Lamanites, especially after the split between the two groups. Lehi’s servants, and especially anyone serving Laman and Lemuel, might have also valued this opportunity to escape from men like Laman and Lemuel, making up part of the others who saw Nephi as the true inheritor of Lehi, and/ or respected, believed Nephi, and left with him. Did the Lehites meet up with anyone in the desert, or along their travels, who joined their group?

When it talks about other groups very early in the Book of Mormon, we have the problem of language. How would a stranger “other” understand and believe the “warnings and the revelations of God”, and be able to “HEARKEN unto [Nephi’s] WORDS”? (The split between the Nephites and Lamanites came very early.) Unless, of course, there were people in the land who already spoke the same language. Which meant that they probably had the same, or at least similar religion, and maybe culture, too. But how probable is this?

Yes, it seems likely that the “others” included some not of Nephi’s immediate family.
Once again, refer to my first remark for more info.

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Richard D. Grant:
Have you noticed in your study of the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites and Nephites appear to be totally different cultures. While the Nephites continue many of the Hebrew traditions and practices, the descriptions of the Lamanites give no hint of Hebrew background. In a very short time they developed a totally new, or at least different, life style. To me, it seems probable that Laman and Lemuel, together with the sons of Ishmael, joined with a people who they found inhabiting the land upon their arrival. While Lehi’s descendants adopted the life style of this established population, Laman and Lemuel, together with their descendants became leaders of this new society which Nephi and his descendants identify by the name of Nephi’s eldest brother.

****Yes, they are different cultures. Remember that with Lehi, most of their lives were oriented according to the law of Moses and religion. After Lehi and the big split, the Lamanites didn’t have revelation, religion, and hard work as “restrictions” anymore. When you have two groups of people with very different values, differences result quickly. The result? You very quickly have two nations. Outside cultural or religious influences are not necessary. Look at a family where two children have very different values–family reunions already show the results. Just after a few years of leaving home and getting married, the children’s lives can be VERY different. Stick on another generation, and the differences could be so far apart you would never recognize them as being related. Anyone other than me ever felt that at a family reunion?

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Brant Gardner:
We necessarily begin with the origin of Lehi’s people in the New World. It is indisputable that Lehi and his company landed on a coast, and the coast of Guatemala is our plausible location, according to John L. Sorenson’s reconstruction. If a ship carrying Lehi’s party were to have arrived on the coast of Guatemala approximately 590 years before Christ, what might they have found? Would they have been alone or were other people already there?
The archaeological survey of the Middle Formative sites for the coast of Guatemala deals with sites dated some two hundred years earlier than Lehi’s landing, so we need to make some inferences. Two hundred years prior to Lehi’s arrival there were seven settlements ranging from one household to twelve households.1 After this time, the coastal areas saw a peak of population density not seen until the Late Classic period, over a thousand years later. It is important to understand that the settlement areas were not necessarily larger, but simply more numerous.2

****Seven whole small settlements, of maybe four people in a settlement? Spanning a whole coast, in a POSSIBLE place/ country? And of those settlements that were later discovered, could they possibly have been Lamanite settlements, instead of those of “others” already there? Isn’t it just as likely that the Lamanites wiped the “others” out and those settlements were theirs?
While Guatemala might be A/ ONE “plausible location”, it is far from the only possibility, and need not be accepted as one, much less THE one.

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John L. Sorenson:
The second question concerns the relative size of the Lamanites and other groups compared with the Nephites. An analysis has already been published of the age and gender of the personnel in Lehi’s party.1 Nephite demographic history obviously begins with that information. My reading of the text puts about eleven adults and thirteen children in Nephi’s group when they split with the faction of Laman and Lemuel. However, the adults included only three couples. None of the unmarried persons, including Nephi’s brothers Jacob and Joseph and, probably, their sisters, would have had marriage partners available until nieces or nephews came of age, so for some interval the group’s reproduction rate would have been even lower than those numbers seem to suggest. The Lamanite faction I estimate to have included four couples with the likelihood that the oldest grandchildren of Ishmael were just coming into the age of reproduction.2 Within a few years the Lamanites should have had on the order of half again as many persons as the Nephites, and that size advantage should have continued thereafter. Within a few years Nephi reports that his people “began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land” (2 Nephi 5:13).

****Nephi says, “began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land”, not “began to prosper, and to multiply exceedingly in the land”–a big difference. Nevertheless, let’s continue.

Here, I won’t include many others who might have been included (see previous response above).
Nephi’s sisters, especially the older ones already married to the sons of Ishmael, and Laman and Lemuel had had children in the desert (1 Nephi 17:20), and Nephi, Sam, and Zoram probably had a few, also (1 Nephi 18:19). Nephi’s sisters could have already had a few children each before they even started out from Jerusalem, especially if they had married young, and if they were much older. Some of the desert children could have been older (by maybe four years) than Jacob. And what if some of Lehi’s children were from another mother?

When you start out with a small group, it looks big fast. Comparatives and superlatives are relative, and sometimes figures of speech. Have you ever been to a large group of people seated outside, say like for a concert? Looks huge, yet, it’s only a few thousand.

(Hey, how about a family reunion of my great-grandparents’ posterity? Mine was so huge that it took up more than a whole huge church, and that wasn’t even everyone; I hardly knew any of my relatives, and I was pretty involved with genealogy. Yes, most married outside of the family; but even if they had married in the family, it would have been big.)

About 2 Nephi 5:13–note that the reason Nephi gives for this, is “And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly”–NOT, “and others were with us; and we did prosper exceedingly” or “and because others helped us, we did prosper exceedingly”, etc.

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John L. Sorenson:
When about fifteen years had passed, he says that Jacob and Joseph had been made priests and teachers “over the land of my people” (2 Nephi 5:26, 28). After another ten years, they “had already had wars and contentions” with the Lamanites (2 Nephi 5:34).

****Yes, only two priests and teachers over the entire people? That right there shows a much smaller number initially than what Sorenson et. al. allude to.
“Wars” do not need large groups of people. I believe most of us don’t find anything wrong with the term “war” to signify something smaller. Many gangs with small groups have “wars”, such as in the term “gang wars”. Look at the ways many native tribes (such as in Africa, Southeast Asia) fought/ fight battles and wars with small groups of men.

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Brant Gardner:
With the addition of “others” into Nephi’s party we have a larger core of people than we could possibly have with the segregation of only those who arrived with Lehi. Three events described for the early city of Nephi would appear to confirm the presence of more people than those who had come from the Old World. About thirty years after the departure from Jerusalem, Nephi describes some of the events of the establishment of the city of Nephi. First, Nephi describes having not only built dwellings, but also a temple.4 Public building projects require excess labor. Even on a modest scale, a public building takes time and resources away from daily life. The very existence of a public building suggests a larger population than the pure Old World immigrants and their natural increase.

**** Since when does “dwellings” (um, where is that in the Book of Mormon text?) mean “large, difficult-to-build, separate houses for everyone”?
And why does one all of a sudden take “temple” in the text to mean “large and extensive public building projects”, which one temple hardly justifies. This “public building” is not really what seems to be implied. It is not a government building, for example. It is a temple. It isn’t required to hold a great many people inside its walls. To us, it might be comparable to building a house–labor-intensive, takes time and work, but not that difficult for someone who sees the necessity of having one.
How big was Solomon’s temple? In 2 Nephi 5:16, Nephi says he “did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things… but the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon”. “After the manner”: does that mean it’s the same size? It could, but it doesn’t. If it were a large temple, that might be a great undertaking for so few people.
Possibly, notice that Nephi mentions nothing of rock or cement at this point. (In fact, nothing is mentioned of cement until Helaman 3:7.) What was the temple constructed of, huge blocks of granite? Possibly wood, or clay temple? Would that seem such a difficult task, if so?

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Brant Gardner:
The second event that indicates the presence of a larger population is the declaration of Nephi as king.5 Small hamlets do not have kings. To name one of a dozen men “king” is an insult, not a compliment. Finally, we have the designation of Jacob and Joseph as priests and teachers “over the land of my people.”6 Were we to assume only Old World peoples at this point, we have a king and two priests servicing perhaps ten households. The early Nephite political/religious structure is too top heavy for so few people. The only situation that sufficiently explains our text is the presence of non-Old World peoples at this early date.

****Kings do not need lots of people under them to be called kings. I don’t find any “insult” in this, in the Book of Mormon or otherwise–perhaps there are many historical references I could be pointed to? Do any annals of history show that to be called a king over a few people is an insult? And when does it stop being an insult and becomes a compliment? 200 men? 400 men? 700 men? Wouldn’t that be convenient to know! Then we could figure out how many men there were. Gardner often protests using “presentism”, and I would like to point out that here he does not just use “presentism”, he uses “‘personalism'”–he asks that all give substance to his pure opinion. Sorry!

Remember, King Noah had many priests–at least 24, if not more–yet his subjects were a small group, which had grown from a very small group, which had had… a king: Zeniff. (The history and growth of king Zeniff’s people, which could/ should serve as a subset to the Nephite growth, hasn’t, unfortunately, been treated by any of these researchers, as far as I can tell.) Hey, how about that Alma guy–another small group of about 200 people (children included, if any over the age of eight?).

I see this differently–I see that one ruler and two religious teachers shows that there probably weren’t many people at that time. These religious leaders were possibly responsible for both Melchizedek priesthood ordinances and Law of Moses rites, not to mention other duties. Also, unlike the priests in Jerusalem, it is likely that Jacob and Joseph also worked for a living. Wait… how many men are in a branch presidency? I’ve been in branches that had less than 10 families in them. So how is this “top heavy”, especially if you throw in Jacob and Joseph doing home teaching ;) ?

John L. Sorenson:
The reports of intergroup fighting in these early generations also seem to refer to larger forces than growth by births alone would have allowed. At the twenty-five-year mark of their history, Nephi already reported that they had had “wars” with the Lamanites (see 2 Nephi 5:34), yet the male descendants of the original Nephites could not reasonably have numbered more than a score by the time these “wars” are mentioned. Later, in Jacob’s old age, the “wars” mentioned in Jacob 7:26 would have been fought with a maximum of fifty on his side and not dramatically more for the attackers. Either the expression “war” was being used loosely at this point in the account or else the population springing from the original Lehites had already been augmented by “others,” it appears to me.

****See response to small numbers of fighting men for “war” at the beginning of page 4.
Later (Jacob 7:24, 25), Jacob writes: “And it came to pass that many means were devised to reclaim and restore the LAMANITES. . .and they had an eternal hatred against US, THEIR BRETHREN. And they sought by the power of their arms to DESTROY US CONTINUALLY (this sounds like war). Wherefore, the people of Nephi. . .became as yet, conquerors of THEIR ENEMIES (“the Lamanites”, in the plural–not the Lamanites AND (lots of) others).
Also, in Words Of Mormon 1:13: “And it came to pass also that the ARMIES OF THE LAMANITES came down out of the land of Nephi, to battle against his people. But behold, king Benjamin gathered together his armies, and he did stand against them. . .
Words Of Mormon 1:14: And in the strength of the Lord they did contend against their ENEMIES, UNTIL THEY HAD SLAIN MANY THOUSANDS OF THE LAMANITES. And it came to pass that they did contend against the Lamanites until they had driven them out of all the lands of their inheritance.”
Thus, here it seems that only Lamanites are their enemies.
Then, in Jacob 7:26: . . .and HATED OF OUR BRETHREN, WHICH CAUSED WARS and contentions. . .
In Helaman 12:2, it says that the Lord helps the Nephites by making sure their “enemies don’t declare war on them”; at this time, it is the Lamanites and Gadianton robbers (Helaman 11:1, 2) that make the plural.
The end of the great Jaredite war goes through the process of dwindling numbers, though most of the Lamanite/ Nephite wars seem to have hardly been to the death of everyone.
Also, it seems probable that especially at the beginning the weapons, especially on the attacking Lamanite side, would not have been as advanced or of as high quality; and, the Nephites would hardly want to actively and pursuingly kill the Lamanites, as the verses above and elsewhere show.

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